Today is the last day you can submit your application to become a NASA astronaut, in case you have an overwhelming urge to fling yourself off the planet for a while. The deadline to get your application in to NASA is 11:59PM ET tonight, so there’s only a few precious hours left to potentially line up your escape plan from Earth.
NASA is recruiting a new round of astronauts for its highly touted Artemis program, an initiative to send the first woman to the surface of the Moon. The goal is to land the first Artemis crews on the lunar dirt by 2024 and then continue landing additional crews every year after that. The ultimate long-term goal is to send astronauts to Mars someday, and NASA hopes to use its Artemis program to learn and train for eventually sending people to the Red Planet someday.
Perhaps exploring deep-space destinations in the Solar System appeals to you; perhaps you have some other motivations for wanting to be far away from the planet. Either way, the time to apply is now!
Of course, there are some caveats. Before you become an astronaut, you have to pass a physical, and you need to be a US citizen. You need a master’s degree in some kind of STEM field (though there are other ways to meet this requirement, such as completing two years of work in a PhD program). Candidates also need two years of professional experience related to being an astronaut, or you can substitute in 1,000 hours of jet pilot experience. Oh and this time around, candidates also have to take an online test that’s about two hours long, according to NASA.
Also if you’re particularly impatient to get into space right now for some reason, it’s good to know that it probably going to be a while before you blast off, even if you are selected from the likely tends of thousands of hopefuls who will apply. NASA doesn’t plan to choose finalists until the middle of 2021. Those individuals will go through about two years of training before they graduate and become eligible for mission assignments. Even then, it could be a few years before they get selected to be on a crew.
The lucky few who do get picked may have some fun new rides to take into space. NASA notes that future astronauts could travel to the International Space Station on the new commercial vehicles being developed by SpaceX and Boeing. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, is slated to take place this May. Also for those with aspirations of getting to the Moon, future astronauts will be able to ride in NASA’s new deep-space crew capsule, called Orion, which is designed to launch on top of the agency’s future giant rocket, the Space Launch System. The pair are supposed to fly together on their first flight next year, though NASA did recently shut down production and development of these vehicles in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which will likely delay that mission even longer.
Unfortunately, applying to be an astronaut probably isn’t the fastest solution to escaping the planet right now — if that is something you want to do. But, hey, you never know when you’ll need a quick trip off the Earth in the future — why not plan ahead now?